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Denver Broncos' Keys to Victory: Week 13 at San Diego Chargers

Ken Pomponio Avatar
December 5, 2015


Keys-to-Victory-Who: Denver Broncos (9-2) at San Diego Chargers (3-8)

What: 2015 Week 13

When: 2:05 p.m. MST, Sunday, Dec. 6

Where: Qualcomm Stadium


Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon

Radio: KOA (850 AM), The Fox (103.5 FM)

Odds: Broncos -3.5; O/U 43.5

Notable: The Broncos lead the all-time series 61-49-1 and have won seven of the last eight, including a 24-17 victory in the 2013 AFC Divisional playoffs. … Brock Osweiler joins John Elway, Craig Penrose, Norris Weese and Marlin Briscoe as the only quarterbacks to win their first two pro starts with the Broncos, and only Penrose (1976, ’78) won his first three. … Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers is 10-10 in 20 career starts against the Orange & Blue and has averaged 232.3 yards per game with 33 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. … Over the last five seasons, Denver is tied with the New England Patriots for the league’s best record against divisional opponents (including the postseason), going 23-5 (.821). During that time frame, the Broncos have won an NFL-record 14 consecutive road games against divisional foes, including four wins in San Diego. … During that same span, the Chargers are 13-14 against the AFC West, including a run of four straight losses.

The Keys

  • Beware the TEs: The Broncos have allowed 11 TD passes this season, and nearly have of them have been caught by tight ends, including one each last week by the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler. That’s a dangerous trend against the Bolts, whose tight ends – primarily the ageless Antonio Gates and the emerging Ladarius Green – have combined for 70 catches, 765 yards and have reeled in nine of Rivers’ 23 scoring tosses. In the two meetings last season, Gates had 11 receptions for 108 yards and accounted for three of the Chargers’ four TDs against the Broncos. Expect Rivers and the Bolts to go to the TE well early and often Sunday, especially with the Denver D playing without safety T.J. Ward.
  • Crank up the heat: The Denver D has cooled off after a blazing start, notching only 11 sacks in the last five games after bagging the opposing QB 26 times in its first six outings. DeMarcus Ware’s continuing absence looms large here, and he’ll miss a fourth straight game Sunday. Rivers has been sacked 26 times, but considering the Chargers drop back to pass a league-most 45 times per game – with Rivers ranking second among QBs with 3,511 aerial yards – San Diego owns a respectable 5.25 sack percentage (the 14th lowest figure in the league), especially considering the myriad offensive-line issues the Chargers have endured. Overall, the magic number for the Denver D is 29 as Rivers and Co, are 3-0 when scoring 30 or more points this season and 0-8 when putting up 29 or fewer. That shouldn’t be a problem as the Broncos are allowing an average of 18.8 points per game with no foe as of yet getting into the 30s.
  • Keep the ground game rolling: In case you somehow haven’t noticed, the Broncos have notched their two highest single-game rushing totals of the season (170 yards vs. the Bears and 179 against the Pats) in the last two games while achieving near-equal balance (68 rushes and 77 passes). The San Diego D, meanwhile, has been gashed for an average of 123.7 ground yards per game (seventh highest in the NFL) and a league-worst 4.90 yards per carry. With Osweiler operating mainly under center, the offensive line finally seeming to be picking up the nuances of Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme and reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week C.J. Anderson heating up late – much as he did a season ago – a third straight season rushing high is well within reach for the Orange & Blue.

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